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The Dark Wizard of Outagamie County

October 9, 2016

In 1899, citizens of Center, Wisconsin – a town in Outagamie county settled mostly by Mecklenburg Germans – erupted in accusations of witchcraft. The mysterious deaths of Mrs Herman Dalke, her three children and the sudden loss of previously healthy livestock around the town had the superstitious immigrants talking. The accused was a middle aged hunchbacked farmer named John Dalke. Dalke was the neighbor and brother in law of the recently deceased Mrs Herman Dalke and Uncle to her children. He readily admitted that he was a practitioner of the dark arts and that he had the power to commune with demons. He also claimed that his mother, a witch in the old country, had taught him the art of sorcery, but added that he had nothing to do with any of the recent deaths. Dalke soon heard rumors of an impending lynch mob. Fearing for his life, he retained the services of an attorney from Appleton.  Lawsuits for slander were immediately filed against the most vocal townspeople and newspapers covering the matter were threatened with potential libel suits - all to little effect. Under continuing pressure and unable to fend off rumors of his supernatural guilt, Dalke moved to Appleton. He died a few years later -  a member of a local Church in good standing.